HARARE, Feb 20 — The European Union (EU) will resume dealing directly with the Zimbabwean government in November this year when a freeze on co-operation which the bloc imposed expires, says the Director for East and Southern Africa for Development and Co-operation in Brussels, Francesca Mosca.

The move signifies the thawing of once frosty relations between Zimbabwe and the 28-member EU, which has been dealing with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) here after it imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe more than a decade ago as punishment for the government expropriating prime land from Whites to distribute to landless Blacks to correct a colonial legacy.

Early this week, the EU announced the lifting of sanctions on eight top security and senior defence personnel but maintained the embargo on President Mugabe, the First Lady, Grace, and the Zimbabwe Defence Industries. Initially about 192 people and 87 companies were on the sanctions list.

The freeze on development cooperation would expire at the beginning of November this year and Mosca said Wednesday this would be the first time in 14 years that relations between the two sides would resume.
“Since 2000, we have not been negotiating with the government a national indicative programme (NIP) on co-operation,” said Mosca. “In 14 years, this is the first time that this happens, I think this is quite a remarkable step forward.”

The NIP is a bilateral programme negotiated between partner countries and the EU for targeted support in different sectors of the economy. Mosca expressed confidence that a draft agreement on areas of cooperation would be easily worked out.

Meanwhile, EU officials insisted that sanctions had not impacted on economic relations between the 28-member bloc and Zimbabwe. EU ambassador Aldo Dell Ariccia said the balance of trade between the two sides was in fact skewed in favour of Zimbabwe.

Koen Vervaeke, the director for the Horn of Africa, East and Southern Africa, Indian Ocean at the European External Action Service said EU member countries had in the past five years disbursed 1.4 billion euros in support of various activities in Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe government has said the embargo cost the local economy more than 42 billion US dollars in the past decade.

Meanwhile, the EU officials struggled to justify why First Lady, Grace Mugabe remained on the sanctions list after they said President Mugabe remained sanctioned as he had overall responsibility for the state of affairs in Zimbabwe.

“In our assessment it was difficult to separate them, they are very close and that’s why both are maintained under restrictive measures,” said Vervaeke.